Mesa works to restore recognition of historic preservation efforts - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Mesa works to restore recognition of historic preservation efforts

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Posted: Thursday, February 2, 2012 9:01 am | Updated: 2:30 pm, Fri Mar 29, 2013.

Mesa is trying to shine a brighter light on historic preservation after the recession forced the city to scale back its efforts to recognize people who've saved elements of the community's past.

The city is reviving its historic preservation awards this spring, after putting them on hold in 2008 as Mesa slashed spending and its employee base. Mesa put out a call for nominations earlier this year but hasn't had a single response, said John Wesley, the city's planning director and historic preservation officer.

It's not for a lack of worthy historic restoration, he said.

He notes that many community members have worked on significant projects despite troubling economic times.

Wesley points to a project to restore the iconic diving-lady sign that a storm nearly destroyed in 2010. Fundraising has allowed the 78-foot-tall sign dating to 1960 to be put up again soon at the Starlite Motel.

Also, the city's iMesa initiative to reinvest in the city resulted in residents saying they want to preserve the Buckhorn Baths, a hotel that became a popular highway road stop more than 70 years ago. It was the spring training home for the New York Giants in the late 1940s and helped lure other teams to the Valley to create the now-powerful Cactus League. The hotel closed in 1999 and a national preservation group named it one of the most endangered places in the U.S.

Also, two neighborhoods worked to get historic designations, and others are raising funds to restore a 100-year-old locomotive at Pioneer Park.

"That indicates there's generally a pretty good interest for historic preservation," Wesley said.

Interest in the preservation awards had been high in the past, but Wesley said he's trying to get the word out after the break in the tradition.

Nominations are due Feb. 14. Awards can be presented to individuals, groups or organizations in the categories of adaptive reuse, rehabilitation, restoration, archaeology, education, tourism, activism, general preservation and lifetime contribution. The recipients will be honored at a City Council meeting in May and the Arizona Historic Preservation Conference in June.

Nomination forms are available at the Mesa Public Library; Arizona Museum of Natural History; Mesa Historical Museum and at www.mesaaz.gov/planning/HistoricPresAwards.aspx. For more information, call (480) 644-2181.

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